Dear Saints And Sinners:
Time was when you could count on our leading theologians to thunder forth against the seven deadly sins—pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust—in no uncertain terms. And formerly you could expect Esquire magazine to devote itself to making immorality tantalizing to all red-blooded Americans. But alas, the mop has flopped. Now many young princes of the church advise us that these deadly acts, if carried out with the right motive in the proper context, may be living demonstrations of love. And a recent issue of Esquire, using a bit of satire and feminine pulchritude, delivers a lesson in morality by calling attention to our preoccupation with a new septette of sins. Will somebody please stop the world? I want to get off!
Esquire scrutinizes “our age of realism, of psychological insight, of truth” and jocularly states, “the quaint belief that lust, pride, avarice, and all the rest of them were really ‘sinful’ passed quietly in the Sixties.” Now the seven deadly sins that sear our souls are chastity, poverty, anonymity, age, failure, ugliness, and constancy.
Esquire’s sagacity is undeniable. For surely every member of the Pepsi generation cringes at the possibility of being (1) inexperienced, (2) non-affluent, (3) uncelebrated, (4) over thirty-five, (5) unsuccessful, (6) unattractive, and (7) rooted.
But what about our theological promoters of contextual ethics? Can they afford to remain deaf to the prophetic word of this worldly journal? Dare they continue to bury their heads in the passé pages of Playboy and neglect the satirical proclamation of the “Magazine for Men”?
A voice greater than Hefner is being heard in the land. And the boys at Esquire are having a great time chuckling at all of us. Especially at those for whom none of the seven old sins is necessarily deadly or even always sinful.
Venially, EUTYCHUS III, EsQ.
Your editorial, “Viet Nam: A Moral Dilemma” (Jan. 20), is an excellent beginning in raising for evangelicals the question of the justice of American action in Southeast Asia. You are to be commended for your clear call for biblical thinking and for your insistance that Christians cannot sit by, passively approving of the actions of their government, lest they suddenly find themselves guilty of serious violation of God’s law.
PAUL D. STEEVES
For a pacifist to argue that the war in Viet Nam is illegal and unjust is ridiculous, since there can be no legal and no just wars for the pacifist. For the man whose conscience is troubled by “the undeclared war,” let him remember that the United States is fulfilling a treaty agreement approved by the Senate, and the Congress continues to vote funds to prosecute the war effort. Nobody likes the war and everybody wants it ended. If the critics of the war would spend less time criticizing U. S. involvement and spend more time working for an equitable solution—plus a little praying—it might end sooner than they think.
Silver Spring, Md.
It is good to see the historic Christian positions toward war raised in reference to the present war in Viet Nam. Too often we derive our ethics of whether to follow the government in a war on secular sources such as Machiavelli rather than on the basis of the Christian faith we profess.…
Would it be unpatriotic for the churches or even individuals to question the actions of the government in war? For me, the patriotic slogan, “My country right or wrong,” means that whether my country is right or wrong it is still my country and I have responsibility for seeing that it is right. When my country is wrong, even when I oppose its wrongness, then I share in its guilt. I feel that an interpretation that says I must follow my country even when it is wrong without trying to see that it be right sets my country above my allegiance to God, is idolatry, and must be rejected.
Many thanks for your thoughtful exploration of a problem which should concern every Christian American. A continuing dialogue on this issue would be appreciated.
Trenton, N. J.
Christianity On Campus
Elton Trueblood’s response (Jan. 6) to the question of how he would exhort college and university students “in regard to their commitment to Christ and the opportunities for Christian penetration in the oncoming generation” is most significant.
For Christian students to pray together, to share the relevance of biblical faith to various disciplines, and to discuss and plan ways of penetrating the diverse segments of the academic community is essential if they are to mature spiritually as well as mentally. Unfortunately, many frustrated evangelical students are afraid to expose themselves to Scripture and ideas around them and choose rather to spend their college years blindly following charismatic leaders who offer a predigested program, complete with ready-made answers to all questions.…
The unstructured honesty of Christian students grappling with truth in small groups has been, and continues to be, of extreme value to both the Christian students themselves and those around them. Harvey Cox recalls in The Secular City that when he was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship “sponsored scores of student-led Bible studies, where the discussions were often hotter and more valuable than those carefully supervised by clergymen” (p. 224). During my own undergraduate years at UCLA, I “found myself” and learned practical lessons in discipleship and mission in similar groups.
DONALD G. DAVIS, JR.
Department of Special Collections
Fresno State College Library
Alive And Working
Please correct the erroneous statement in the Lippincott advertisement of Mal Forsberg’s newest book, Last Days on the Nile (Jan. 20, p. 18).
The Sudan Interior Mission is very much alive! In fact, we have perhaps more vital force than ever before. Dr. Forsberg’s book describes last-day missionary efforts in the southern Sudan, which does not affect the on-going work of 1,318 missionaries, actually working across the broad expanse of Africa, south of the Sahara (formerly all called “Sudan”).… It says nothing of any “tragic end to the Sudan Interior Mission.”
IAN M. HAY
North America Director
Sudan Interior Mission
Plainfield, N. J.
Injustice In Jail
I noted with great interest your small news article (Jan. 6) entitled “Turks Jail Preaching Trio.” My interest stems largely from the fact that I know two of the jailed “trio” personally; in fact one of them is my former roommate.… Since I am in direct contact with him and have received two letters from him since the inception of his recent incarceration, I feel I must correct some of the information which you have received from your government sources.
First of all, his name is not Geoffery W. Cobb but Jeffry W. Cobbe. Second, Jacquith, Magney, and he were not engaged in proselytizing activities in violation of Turkish law. Not only had the mayor of Midyat (the town where they were arrested) granted them permission to distribute their literature there, but more important, the constitution of the Turkish government guarantees such freedom of religious expression.
According to Cobbe’s correspondence with me, the local officials holding them in prison have realized they cannot legally sentence the three men. Since, however, they have noted “how little pressure the American consul is putting on them,” they intend to keep them in jail “until higher officials make them release us or we give them a bribe ($600.00 or so).” Cobbe continues, “We are beginning to see that justice here is a matter of money and not laws. Since we aren’t about to bribe any official, no matter how long we stay here, our only recourse is through you to exert force on the Turkish officials to release us. All I can say is that any resemblance to justice in their legal system is purely coincidental”.…
Third, it is not exactly true that the three imprisoned men “serve under a small American mission board.” All three are associated with the Operation Mobilization crusades of Send the Light, Inc. (with headquarters in Wyckoff, New Jersey), but each is technically on his own in his evangelistic ventures in Turkey. Moreover, Send the Light is not actually a mission board as such.
Finally, not only Magney but Jacquith and Cobbe as well have been arrested before on similar charges, Cobbe once or twice before in other parts of Turkey!
JOHN S. OLDFIELD
Conservative Baptist Theological
Read My Sermon
Your editorial, “Why Hurry a New Confession?” (Jan. 20), prompts me to send a copy of the sermon, “The Case of the Sad Advertisement,” which deals with what one of my colleagues has characterized as “This Sad Ad.”
CHRISTIANITY TODAY does no service or honor to the cause of truth in quoting, as did the advertisement, the sections of the confession on “political, social, and economic controversies” out of context. This is a particularly blatant matter when quoting out of context creates misleading and false impressions; when choice is obviously made to omit the theological basis of concern in each of these matters; and when the only phrases used in quotation are those which taken by themselves may be bound to raise questions but provide no answers.
CHARLES R. EHRHARDT
Since your editorial referred to the large advertisement of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, something can be said about its deception. Its appearance in major newspapers raises some questions about motives but also was a grief to many of us who have questioned the position of the Confession of 1967. We would have hoped for integrity from men who know Presbyterian polity and the Westminster documents. The ad raised two issues.
How far the authors would go in humanizing the Bible can be realized in this excerpt from the new Confession:
“The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times in which they were written. They reflect views of life, history and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding.”
It seems almost deliberate to cite this to an uninformed public without giving the accompanying paragraph, which reads, “The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written. The Scriptures are not a witness among others, but the witness without parallel” (italics mine). We may have wished for the word “infallible” to appear somewhere in the statement, but to omit the paragraph is deceptive.…
Later in the ad, when it speaks to what the new confession has to say about the involvement of the Church in social, political, and economic issues, it tells of the “radical changes,” and then, to offer authority that the Church should not take a position, it says: “The Westminster Confession states it clearly: ‘Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical, and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth’ ” (Chap. XXXI, No. 4.) Again it seems deliberate that the sentence was not completed. This is the way it reads in the true text: “Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical, and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate” (italics mine).
DONALD C. IRWIN
San Diego, Calif.
• Our editorial quoted C ’67 passages cited by Presbyterian Lay Committee to support its claim that C ’67 departs from biblical infallibility and involves the institutional church in political matters. Further C ’67 quotations do not refute the Lay Committee’s contentions.—ED.
If you read Monday Morning … you may have been as amazed as I to find in the January 16 issue (p. 31) the following statement of impartiality from the “national offices” of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.:
Adoption or rejection of the proposal “now is in the hands of the presbyteries,” and the church’s national offices are being careful to avoid “even appearing to be attempting to influence these presbytery decisions,” he [William P. Thompson] said.
To clarify points attacked by the lay committee, a Public Relations Memorandum has been sent by the Presbyterian Office of Information to executives and stated clerks of all synods and presbyteries. Along with a statement by the Rev. Theophilus M. Taylor, secretary of the General Council, the Memorandum suggests that judicatory officials share Dr. Taylor’s analysis with pastors, continue to encourage careful consideration of the Confession of 1967 on its merits, help pastors and elders resist efforts to turn them from their studied convictions, and avoid being dragged into battle with the lay group in public news media.
My own reflection is: It is amazing how impartial you can be, when you have an Office of Information to push the official line and argue the case for you in “all synods and presbyteries.”
DONALD C. SMITH
You seem to make some statements for evangelicals which tend to represent only the (many) evangelicals who are in agreement with you.
Your discussions of the NCC usually find the NCC or “those committed to ecumenism” on the one side and the “evangelical Christians” on the opposite side in a strict they-we dichotomy. We evangelicals who belong to denominations which are a part of the NCC and who are heartily appreciative of the opportunities which this ecumenical setting provides are confused as to where we are supposed to fit.
We feel even less represented when you speak of the evangelical position on social action. For example, despite your denials, we advocate church support and recommendation of specific legislative programs; and we feel that socialism can be a Christian philosophy.
I should not have replied to Rabbi Solomon S. Bernards’s letter (Jan. 20) in which he accuses me of “distortions” and “misrepresentations” of facts; but since he represents the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, which is considered by Jews and non-Jews the most powerful and influential organization of American Jewry, I feel obliged to reply.…
Contrary to his … interpretation of my article, I merely stated in it how Christians could proclaim the Gospel to Jews without offending them. I emphasized that a Jew should not be required to leave his people or any of his customs when he accepts Christ as his Messiah. He may remain within the Jewish fold (if he is not expelled) just as various other dissenters (Reformists, atheists, and so on) remain “Jewish.”
Contrary to the A.D.L. rabbi’s accusation, I have always firmly believed in the indestructibility of the Jewish people. I am the editor of a paper called The Everlasting Nation. Like all true followers of Christ, I believe that the Jews are an Am Olam (an everlasting people), who, as stated in God’s Word, are to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests, a light unto all nations, and a blessing to the whole world.
Many Jews have looked for long years for the coming of their Messiah as foretold in Old Testament Scriptures. Will they be less than Jews when he comes and they receive him?
Santa Barbara, Calif.
In Praise Of The Principles
I have read “Evangelical Principles and Practices,” by Gordon Harman (Jan. 6), several times, and each time I rejoiced in my heart at the straightforward manner in which the writer set forth such wonderful truths. I agree 100 per cent with all he has written and shall look forward with keen interest to the second part.
CHARLES R. BEITTEL
Otterbein Evangelical United
I think one point needs clarification. He said, “Evangelicals in all the main Protestant denominations have been celebrating Holy Communion with one another at interdenominational activities ever since the Reformation.” Well, if Scripture would authorize such a practice, it would authorize the performance of baptisms in the same context.
The truth is, the ascended Christ left a legacy, not of loose interdenominational activities, no matter how useful we may consider them today, not a youth organization, not men’s, not women’s, not even Bible societies—but a church. But the problem is, Christian people when they get together, instinctively wish to observe the Lord’s Supper. This instinct is right. The vehicle chosen may be incorrect.
EDWARDS E. ELLIOTT
Garden Grove Orthodox Presbyterian
Garden Grove, Calif.
The Most Important
CHRISTIANITY TODAY is certainly the most important magazine we receive, and has been a great help.…
MRS. R. S. SEDZIOL
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